'Messi never wants to be substituted' - Martino

The Argentine was unhappy with being replaced during Tuesday's 4-1 Primera Division win over Real Sociedad but the Barcelona boss defends the decision as long-term thinking
Gerardo Martino has defended substituting star player Lionel Messi during Barcelona's 4-1 triumph over Real Sociedad.

The Argentine showed obvious discontent after being replaced in the second half of Tuesday's win but the Barca coach insists that his decision was made in the best interest of the player and the club in the long term, while praising the team's overall performance.

"Messi never wants to be subbed off but it's my task to take care of him," Martino told reporters after the match. "We need him at end of season as well as now.

"My way of thinking won't change. I repeated the whole time how I want to play; maybe this game helps some to see things clearer.

"We played a very good game. The way we played in the first half was wonderful - it was a pity we couldn't score more."

The 54-year-old went on to laud €57 million (£48m) man Neymar following his debut goal in La Liga, while insisting that Alexis Sanchez played well despite not scoring.

"Neymar is an exceptional player," Martino enthused. "It has surprised us how hard he wants to work for the team.

"Alexis didn't score but he worked very hard, both in defence and attack. He does things that few forwards do."